Trump gives commanders new powers to launch military strikes: report

Trump gives commanders new powers to launch military strikes: report
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President Trump granted U.S. commanders the authority to order attacks in countries with little American military presence shortly after taking office, the Washington Examiner reported Friday.

That measure has become pronounced in Yemen, where the president gave U.S. Central Commander Gen. Joseph Votel the authority to carry out military strikes without the approval of the White House.

"This was an authority that was delegated by the president, through the secretary of defense to the Central Command commander to carry out," Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told the Examiner.

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In Yemen, the new authority is directed at fighting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), widely considered among the terrorist group’s highest-profile and dangerous affiliates.

“I don't want to telegraph future operations, but this is part of a plan to go after a very real threat, to ensure they are defeated and denied the opportunity to plot and carry out terrorist attacks from ungoverned spaces,” Davis said, according to the report.

The decision to grant the expanded authority to commanders came on Jan. 29, the same day that Navy SEALS conducted a raid on AQAP that killed a U.S. Navy SEAL and several civilians, including an 8-year-old child.

The U.S. carried out more than 30 airstrikes on AQAP militants in Yemen between Thursday and Friday, though an exact number was not given.

In countries with larger U.S. military presences, like Syria and Iraq, commanders were already able to call in airstrikes and other actions. But in countries like Yemen, commanders previously had to seek permission from the White House before such actions were carried out.

That approval process, the Examiner reports, was frustrating and unnecessarily complex for U.S. military leaders there, requiring commanders to submit memos justifying the action to the White House.

It is not clear how wide-ranging the new authorities are. According to the Examiner, Pentagon officials did not discuss the extent of the powers to avoid tipping off potential targets.

"Our goal is for enemy to be surprised and caught off guard and that is what we have achieved in the past couple of nights with these strikes," Davis told the Examiner.